Ease of Learning: 4 / 5
Ease of Use: 4.5 / 5
Enjoyment: 4 / 5
Design: 3 / 5
Value for Money: 1.5 / 5
There have been many tablets that have been brought to the market ever since Apple’s iPad a few years ago. Most of these, however, have been iOS and Android-based, with a few devices sprinkled around the market running Windows 7. Samsung has provided a viable alternative to the iPad, but even with all their efforts with the Galaxy Tab range, Samsung has not sat back idly waiting to see how the market unfolds. Samsung’s PC division has provided an alternative to its alternative. In December last year, Samsung unveiled its Series 7 Slate PC with Windows 7, which became available in South Africa during the course of 2012. With all the hype focused around the iPad and Android tablets, where does the Slate PC fit in, and should we even be comparing these type of tablets against one another?
The Samsung Series 7 Slate PC has the hardware to compete against any tablet available in the market. The specifications of this device is even enough to stack up against most laptops, especially non-gaming laptops that we use on a daily basis at work. Here’s how the hardware stacks up.
Running on the latest Core processor is an ideal situation when using a laptop, but even more so when crammed into a tablet device. Samsung’s Slate PC comes in variants of the Core i3, i5 and i7. The review unit I received packs a Dual Core i5 processor (1.6GHz), along with a healthy serving of RAM, 4GB worth. With processing power like this, it in itself blows away any competition.
With 11.6” of touch display at your fingertips, it is bigger than most, if not all tablets available in South Africa. The display has a resolution of 1366x768px with 16:9 aspect ratio; the most common resolution among laptops around the world.
The Series 7 Slate PC range all have the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics. Although its HD capabilities match that of most laptops, this is one of weaker hardware specs on the devices, bringing even the Windows Experience Index down by almost 2 full points. With a maximum resolution of 1366×768, you were never going to expect something great in terms of graphics. Be that as it may, I could still play a number of PC titles on this Slate PC, which is something I really enjoyed. Connecting the device to a 1080p HD display yielded respectable results, and it was able play all 1080p videos with sufficient ease.
The device comes with 2 cameras, a front-facing 2MP camera and a rear-facing 3MP camera. Front-facing cameras have never set the world alight, as they simply fulfil the purpose of being used as a basic video-calling device. The rear camera, however, is a disappointment on the Series 7 Slate PC. At the best of times you’ll find it difficult to focus to get the perfect shot. Low light shots should be avoided altogether, which includes backlight, dusk and dawn shots.
With a 5520mAh, this Slate PC was never going to have much battery life to talk about. Although it has a rating of 6.5 hours of battery life, you’d have to leave the device with no applications running to achieve this. In reality, you’re looking at just short of 4 hours of battery life depending on your usage. Connecting to Wi-Fi and browsing content heavy sites such as YouTube will mean an even lower life. Gaming without the device being connected to its charger or dock means you should not always expect to reach the hour mark. This, however, is what you’ll achieve on most laptops as well, but certainly not on your tablet device, albeit this is somewhere in between.
There are many different storage capacities available for the Slate PC, all of them running on SSD, a huge positive. This, along with the Core i5 and 4GB memory means that you will be able to boot up in about 11 seconds, which quite a lot faster than most desktop PCs. The base model packs a 64GB SSD, which is more than sufficient, since this shouldn’t ever be used as your primary device or storage.
At close to 1KG, this is no lightweight device. But since it’s not claiming to be, it should be judged on its performance, although we cannot ignore the extra 350g. I’ll leave it up to you as to what matters most. As with other tablets, the Series 7 Slate PC also sports an accelerometer for easy rotation, along with a rotation-lock key that is positioned a little too close to the power/sleep button for my liking. The device also offers 2 1.5W speakers with woofer and the sound produced is respectable, at most. The volumes won’t reach anything worth mentioning, and tends to becoming more metallic the louder it gets. The audio-out, however, produces decent capabilities, but doesn’t come close to surround sound quality you’d expect.
The device also comes packaged with a pen that makes it easier to use the touch screen. Although having the pen does add a dimension to the overall usage, I can’t see it as a must-have accessory. I’d much rather do without it altogether. With Windows 8 on the horizon, touch-based devices such as this will become easier to use.
The Samsung Series 7 Slate PC comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit (Service Pack 1). In addition, you will also find a copy of Microsoft’s Office Starter 2010, which basically only allows Word and Excel use. As with a lot of laptops these days, there are number of other pre-loaded software that can only be considered as bloatware, as you would want to use them at all, even for the specific tasks they’re meant to run. These, in my opinion, include CyberLink YouCam and Skype 4.2, to name 2 of the biggest culprits.
Since the Slate PC is running Windows 7, it’s not as easy to navigate as it would be for Windows 8, but since that’s not available yet, Samsung have also included software of their own, which is meant to enhance the device’s capabilities. Included as a default is a Windows-based version of TouchWiz, known in this instance as Touch Launcher. You would expect the physical Windows button to open the Start Menu, as it would almost everywhere else, but instead it open this Touch Launcher menu. From this menu you will be able to navigate and open apps via larger icons (similar to other Galaxy devices) from your desktop. Here you can access a clock/timer, weather, YouTube, photos, music, camera, Internet Explorer, Live Mail, Calendar, Bing Maps, and quite a large number of other applications.
Although there are a host of accessories available for this device, the dock and Bluetooth keyboard combo set is the must-have accessory for the Samsung Slate PC, even more so than the included pen. This combination, along with the use of your mouse, transform this tablet into something resembling a true desktop PC setup.
The Samsung Series 7 Slate PC is not a product from Samsung’s mobile division that brought you the likes of the Samsung Tabs, but rather the team responsible for a line-up of serious laptops, gaming or otherwise. If ever there were a device for the business world, this would be it. If it’s portability you’re after, then this device is pretty much a tablet device, despite having a slightly bigger belly to drag around. And with the dock and Bluetooth keyboard, this device is a true desktop. The performance on the Slate PC is just amazing, and all rolled up into a device you can stick under your arms.
There are 2 really poor qualities about the device, however; that being the poor battery life and the price. The battery life, though, you could ignore, since you wouldn’t be playing games during your meetings when the device is most likely not docked. The basic model will set you back around R12,000, which really puts things into perspective. At that price, I would have hoped to see a slight improvement in terms of the graphics and camera, at least. If we’re ever to see such Windows-based devices replacing the laptops we have, while not opting for tablets running iOS and Android, the price will have to be dropped below the R10,000 mark. With its Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM and SSD hard-drive, I can’t see any part of my daily workload requiring this amount of power, unfortunately.
Despite all the negatives about this device, it is still a unique and powerful device you’d really want to own.
You can find the full specifications here.